Braves-Red Sox series at Fenway could be packed with power

MLB

Baseballs could be flying out of Fenway Park at an accelerated rate when the visiting Atlanta Braves meet the Boston Red Sox in a two-game interleague series that begins Tuesday night and matches two slugger-filled lineups.

The Braves lead the major leagues with 78 home runs and hit a franchise-record 15 in their recently completed series against the Pittsburgh Pirates, in which Atlanta won three of four games.

The Red Sox hit two homers Sunday in a 6-2 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies and rank second in the American League with 65. Boston won two of three games in that series.

Atlanta’s Austin Riley has been on an extended tear. Over the past 34 games, the third baseman has hit .369 with a 1.151 OPS. Over the past seven games he has 10 extra-base hits, including six home runs.

“I’ve been very hot in this game, and I’ve been very cold in this game,” said Riley, 24, who is in his third major-league season. “I know it can humble you very quickly. So you’re never satisfied.”

Riley has become a better hitter since his rookie year, when he hit 14 homers in his first 161 at-bats but struggled to stay in the lineup as each opponent made adjustments. Riley no longer is a dead pull hitter and is comfortable using all parts of the field.

On Sunday he hit two homers — one to left and one to right.

“When I’m good, I’m going to the big part of the field,” he said. “I think that’s where I am at right now. It allows me to hit the fastball and stay on the off-speed. I think that’s my best self.”

Boston has gotten a jolt of power from third baseman Rafael Devers, who has 13 home runs, 39 RBI and a .942 OPS this season. Devers has a five-game hitting streak, and 16 of his past 22 hits have been for extra bases.

“I’m just out there trying to be the best version of myself,” Devers said.

Devers, Xander Bogaerts (10 homers, 30 RBI) and J.D. Martinez (12 homers, 37 RBI) make Boston the only team in the major leagues with three players who have at least 10 homers and 30 RBI.

Trying to prevent the offensive onslaught will be Boston right-hander Garrett Richards (4-2, 3.72 ERA) and Atlanta right-hander Charlie Morton (2-2, 4.60).

Richards will make his 10th start of the season. He’s 3-0 with a 2.55 ERA in four starts in May. In his last outing on May 19 against Toronto, Richards allowed two runs in 6 2/3 innings, with five strikeouts.

Richards has one career start against the Braves, in 2014 while a member of the Los Angeles Angels, when he threw six shutout innings but did not earn a decision.

The Boston pitching staff has allowed one or fewer homers in each of its past 12 games and is the only team to allow three home runs in a game.

Morton looked good for the Braves in his most recent start, at the New York Mets on May 19. He allowed only one run on two hits over six innings in Atlanta’s 5-4 victory, but the bullpen nearly let the game slip away.

The veteran has a history of success against the Red Sox. In 11 career starts against Boston, he’s 6-1 with a 4.01 ERA. He faced them twice in 2020 and went 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA.

–Field Level Media

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